The parliamentary year ended earlier this month on the 12th. Squeaking its way into law on the same day was the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill, which aims to make a range of changes to post-16 education. After several days of long debates as the Government tried to get this Bill through Parliament, all hurdles were cleared and the Queen was kind enough to give the Bill the royal seal of approval, turning it into the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009.
I’d been taking a fairly close interest in the Bill for several reasons. Firstly, NDCS had been using the Bill as a vehicle for pressing for action to support our Sounds good? campaign on acoustics. In the end, we successfully got a package of measures without having to push for a change to the law on acoustics. Result.
Secondly, we’d been working with a range of other charities to make sure that deaf and other disabled young people would not be disadvantaged by the proposals in the Bill. One key issue was over access to apprenticeships. The Government wanted to create a new entitlement to apprenticeships for suitably qualified young part as a part of a new government scheme. However, it was decided that if you wanted to take part in this scheme, you would need to hold GCSEs in English and Maths to access this scheme. Considering the legacy of under achievement by deaf children by a system that fails to meet their needs, and considering that GCSEs in English and Maths may not be a necessary requirement for all apprenticeships (do you need to know how to do pythagoras to do a hairdressing apprenticeship?), NDCS felt this was unfair and discriminatory.
So, after a lot of emails from us to the Department for Children, Schools and Families and lobbying of Ministers, largely via the Special Educational Consortium, we finally got the Government to agree to relax this requirement. Now, deaf and other disabled young people will be able to provide a ‘portfolio of evidence’ if they do not hold these specific qualifications as a means of entering the government apprenticeship scheme. Double result.
A good result to end off the parliamentary year. Wonder what the next parliamentary year will bring?